SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan, a retired school teacher, calls Monday's observance of Memorial Day the "Cliff Notes" version - short, condensed, but complete, with an emphasis on those things that distinguish the reverence and respect of the occasion.
The truncated ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at New Cemetery on South Bridge Street; the public is asked to refrain from attending because of Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders on social distancing and crowd limits. The request does not include those people visiting the cemetery to pay respects to those who served.
Hundreds of American flags have been planted at the final resting place of veterans throughout the cemetery.
The ceremony will be filmed and broadcast on 'Ville TV at a later date.
Rev. Canon Ron Pollock, pastor of will offer prayers; Karen Sophie, a senior at Somerville High School and member of the choir, will perform the National Anthem and "America the Beautiful;" Sullivan will offer his sentiments and a reading of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; Andrea Adair, commander of American Legion Post No. 12, will lay the Memorial Wreath and there will be a reading by Councilman Fred Wied V of General John A. Logan's 1868 order recognized as the foundation of today's Memorial Day.
Major Gen. John "Black Jack" Logan had a distinguished career in the Union Army during the Civil War, after which he was instrumental in the founding of the Grand Army of the Republic a veterans group comprised of former Union Army soldiers, and served as the GAR’s second elected national commander. on March 3, 1868, Logan issued General Order No. 11, which called for a national day of remembrance for Civil War dead. This order served as the basis for what became the national holiday of Memorial Day.
"We'll attempt to approximate the spirit of the day," Sullivan said. "It's always been about the flags waving and honoring the men and women who this day is all about."
Sullivan's late father was a WWII veteran, awarded the French Legion of Merit for being part of the Allied forces that liberated France; he was an artilleryman in the 7th Army, known as the "Hellcats." and was in Europe in 1944-45.
Following are Sullivan's remarks to be delivered during the Memorial Day observance:
"Welcome to Memorial Day 2020 in Somerville. We gather once again at the New Cemetery, small perhaps in numbers. but determined to remember the fallen heroes who surround us. The unique circumstances of this day have removed the usual trappings of parades, bike races, picnics, and trips to the shore, leaving us the opportunity to focus on the silent stones adorned with American flags dotting the landscape around us.
"Sacrifice is the watchword for today. We in Somerville join our fellow Americans in a collective effort to defeat an unseen and unforgiving foe, but our sacrifices pale when compared to those of our brave servicemen and women who fell in the name of freedom.
"As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, I would like to speak briefly of one such hero, a man whose name does not make it into history books, although he was the first recorded American death in that great conflict. Captain Robert Losey, the United States Army Air Corps’ best aeronautical meteorologist, was serving in Norway as the German invasion began.
"He and his unit sought shelter from the Luftwaffe’s bombs in a nearby railway tunnel. Instead of remaining in safety, Losey moved to the mouth of the tunnel to better observe the action and provide more detail to his subsequent report. Within seconds, a bomb fragment pierced his heart, killing him instantly.
"It was April 21st, 1940, a full 20 months before Pearl Harbor. When he heard of the incident, Luftwaffe leader Hermann Goring himself sent an official apology to Captain Losey’s commander. Losey is buried in the military cemetery at West Point, and in 1980 a memorial was erected in his honor at the War Memorial Plaza in Trenton, where he had graduated high school in 1924.
"When our service ends here and we return to the challenges ahead of us, please join me in remembering the valor of Captain Robert Losey and the countless men and women in uniform who ran towards danger without thoughts of self. Their bravery should sustain us as we walk together into an uncertain future.
"May God continue to bless Somerville, and may He also continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you."